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Lawyers handed evidence against Stern Hu -

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Lawyers handed evidence against Stern Hu

Stephen McDonell reported this story on Monday, March 1, 2010 12:42:00

ELEANOR HALL: To China now where lawyers for four detained Rio Tinto executives have finally
received the evidence that Chinese prosecutors are using against their clients. Australian Stern Hu
and his three Chinese colleagues have been charged with bribing Chinese steel company executives in
order to obtain commercial advantage for Rio Tinto.

China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports from Shanghai.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: A week ago today the lawyers for Stern Hu, Liu Caikui, Ge Mingqiang and Wang Yong
received a delivery of documents. These papers make up the case against Rio Tinto's Shanghai-based
iron ore negotiating team. If you were to stack the materials on a desk you'd be looking at three
piles of 30 or 40 centimetres each.

Seven months after they were detained, the Rio Tinto executives now have an idea of the strength of
the evidence collected against them. Due to the complexity of the case, some feel that the lawyers
will be given more time to examine these documents before a trial - meaning that it may not happen
for several weeks.

When the hearing does come, defence lawyers will receive a written notice three days before,
telling them that it's on. The four will be tried together.

In principal there's nothing in Chinese law to prevent observers from attending the trial but it'll
be up to court administrators to decide whether to let in representatives of the Australian
Government or Rio Tinto as well as family members and reporters. But, because of the sensitivity of
the case, court officials will be taking their orders from above about who can enter.

If the Rio staff are found to be guilty, according to Chinese law they are supposed to be sentenced
within 45 days of the court accepting the case but both prosecutors and defence lawyers can ask for
an extension.

The crimes of commercial espionage and bribery can draw sentences of up to seven years and 15 years
gaol. They're not served concurrently so, combined, that could be up to 22 years imprisonment. For
Stern Hu that'd mean being sent to Shanghai's Qingpu Prison, where foreigners are held. The three
others could end up there or at another gaol.

Neither Rio Tinto nor the defence lawyers would speak to the ABC about the case.

The Chinese Government is currently changing the law here concerning state secrets and the
punishment for leaking them. When the Rio Tinto executives were first detained by Chinese agents
from the State Security Bureau, government officials said they were accused of stealing state
secrets - but the charges they now face involve commercial espionage.

This is Stephen McDonell in Shanghai for The World Today.